Ribonomics has received a $420,000 grant from the Department of Defense (DOD) to hunt for genetic variations in breast cancer tissue that may help find new drugs to treat it.

The grant, funded through the breast cancer research program of the U.S. Army medical research and materiel command, was awarded in recognition of the scientific merit and high commercial potential of Ribonomics’ functional clustering technology.

“I was surprised to find out the DOD is one of the biggest supporters of breast cancer research,” says Ribonomics President Chris Kelly. He adds that the grant will let the company fund a pilot program in this new area.

The company recently said it has identified previously unknown genetic pathways linked to insulin production, which Kelly says is “salable information” the company can sell or use to develop new drugs internally. But the company thinks its technology will also be useful in finding new approaches to treating cancer.

“Apparently the Army thinks so, too,” he says.

Kelly says Ribonomics has applied for several other grants, but is not currently trying to raise additional venture capital.

“We got good feedback on the milestones investors want when we went to market in the spring,” Kelly says. “We’ve got our nose to the grindstone and we’re working on several commercial deals we think will give us those milestones.”

Founded in 1999, the 10 employee company received $3.1 million in seed funding in April 2001 from a single corporate partner, the Japanese public company Medical & Biological laboratory, Co. Ltd.

Ribonomics: www.ribonomics.com